How PR helped Tilray break new ground with first US cannabis IPO

The inside story on the comms strategy behind Tilray's IPO.

Company: Tilray
Campaign: Tilray IPO
Agency mix: C+C (U.S. PR AOR), Pomp & Circumstance (Canadian PR AOR), Kekst (financial comms)
Duration: May 2017 - August 2018

Canadian cannabis company Tilray ran a PR campaign that helped fuel a successful IPO on the Nasdaq, making it the first pot company to complete an IPO on a U.S. stock exchange.

Tilray and its agency partners for the campaign, C+C and Pomp & Circumstance, began planning for the campaign more than a year ago.

Up until January 2018, the company’s growth was privately funded by Privateer Holdings, but demand from large U.S. institutional investors and blue-chip mutual funds led Tilray to go public this summer.

"Our goal for the IPO and Nasdaq listing was to secure positive media coverage from major U.S. financial and business media, in order to drive investment," explained Zack Hutson, Tilray’s VP of corporate affairs. "Tilray’s internal team began by outlining a series of announcements that would lead up to the process of an IPO."

The brand looked to solidify its position as a leader in the medical marijuana sector and help promote the IPO through a series of announcements, media outreach, and IR activities.

Kekst helped Tilray support finance-specific media relations and the IPO launch strategy.

Between May 2017 and February 2018, the campaign began with announcements of exports to Cyprus, New Zealand, Germany, Czech Republic, and South Africa.

In February and March 2018, Tilray announced the completion of a major round of funding, a supply agreement with Canada's premier pharmacy group Pharmasave, and a distribution partnership with Novartis subsidiary Sandoz Canada.

In June and July, Tilray traveled to 15 cities in four continents to meet with potential investors and test the waters leading up to the IPO. These cities included: Hong Kong, Sydney, Frankfurt, London, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Denver, and Chicago, to name a few.

"In preparation for the IPO news, we prepared an electronic press kit, including video footage and photos of Tilray’s operations," said Hutson. "That footage was important to convey the professional, clinical nature of the facility, busting the old stereotypes of cannabis production."

The team gave U.S. and Canadian media the news of Tilray’s IPO listing in advance, under embargo, and offered interviews with Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy in order to secure stories for market listing day.

Tilray's IPO officially launched on July 9 and wrapped on July 23.

As part of the listing on Nasdaq, Tilray was invited to ring the market closing bell. The campaign team used that event to supply media outlets with visuals, as well as source content for social.

In late August, Kennedy appeared on CNBC’s "Power Lunch." During the segment, Tilray stock went up nearly 10%.

The Tilray IPO campaign secured massive coverage across major news outlets in the U.S. and Canada, including more than 2,000 print and broadcast placements. Notable outlets included MarketWatch, Forbes, Fortune, Reuters, Financial Times, and Business Insider.

The stock itself is performing well. Tilray opened on Nasdaq at $23.05 and closed the first day of trading at $22.39. The stock is currently trading at more than $95 per share.

According to Reuters, Tilray shares are "trading at more than triple the company’s initial public offering price. Tilray is on track to be the second-best IPO performer in the United States this year."

Bloomberg recently named Tilray as the best-performing IPO of 2018.

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